Rising Up for the Environment
Vanessa Nakate from Uganda is my Profile of the week
In many wars fought for western causes, Europe turned to their colonies from where they recruited heavily. The United States recruited massively from their African American population. However, when the stories of the War were told, it became and all white affair. In France in certain victory parades after the Great Wars, African soldiers were excluded so it be understood that the victory was the work of the white soldiers. When it comes to soccer, the team that gave France its very first World cup win in 1998 attracted commentary universally because if its distinct “Africanness”. As a matter of fact, it is recounted that on the stairs of the Elysée Palace, when the group picture had to be taken with the French President Chirac, efforts were made place the white players in prominent positions in the picture while the black players were placed in more discrete positions.
Over a year ago, climate activists were invited to Davos. Among whom, young activists the likes of Vanessa Nakate, Luisa Neubauer, Greta Thunberg, Isabelle Axelsson and Loukina. AP took a picture of these young climate activists. But when the picture was published, one person was cropped out of the picture, leaving only the whites in it. The person cropped out was Vanessa Nakate from Uganda. Vanessa is my profile of the week.
According to the Premier Pan African Magazine the New African, “She has not yet reached her quarter of a century, but she has already had a defining impact on the world around us and possibly the planet’s future. The 23-year-old climate activist with a degree in business administration was inspired by Greta Thunberg and her own father to start her own climate movement in her native Uganda. She shone a spotlight on her cause early in 2019 as a lone protester in Kampala. Over time, she was joined by others with similar beliefs. She now heads the Africa-based Rise Up Movement. In January of this year, along with around 20 other young climate activists, she published a letter to the World Economic Forum calling for an immediate end to the global addiction to energy subsidies. She was one of five international delegates to be invited to Davos during the forum. It was there that she was cropped out of a photo, ‘for the optics’, in a social media post. In October she gave a speech at the Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture, in which she highlighted the fact that whilst Africa contributes the least to climate change, it perversely stands to suffer the most.
One of her stated aims is to bring attention to the environmental degradation of the Congo rainforest, the second-biggest in the world – a fact that many don’t know.”
A Kampala native, Nakate is the founder of the climate action groups Youth for Future Africa and the Rise Up Movement. She drew inspiration from Thunberg in leading a strike outside the Ugandan parliament to protest against climate inaction and rising temperatures. Nakate has also campaigned for climate initiatives across the continent.
In December 2019, Nakate was one of a handful of youth activists to speak at the COP25 gathering in Spain.
In early January 2020, she joined around 20 other youth climate activists from around the world to publish a letter to participants at the World Economic Forum in Davos ,calling on companies, banks and governments to immediately stop subsidizing fossil fuel. She was one of five international delegates invited by Arctic Basecamp to camp with them in Davos during the World Economic Forum; the delegates later joined a climate march on the last day of the Forum.
In October 2020, Nakate gave a speech at the Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture urging world leaders to “wake up” and recognise climate change as a crisis, tying it to poverty, hunger, disease, conflict and violence against women and girls. “Climate change is a nightmare that affects every sector of our lives,” she stated. “How can we eradicate poverty without looking at this crisis? How can we achieve zero hunger if climate change is leaving millions of people with nothing to eat? We are going to see disaster after disaster, challenge after challenge, suffering after suffering (…) if nothing is done about this.” She also called for leaders to “leave their comfort zones and see the danger we are in and do something about it. This is a matter of life and death.”
Nakate started the Green Schools Project, a renewable energy initiative, which aims to transition schools in Uganda to solar energy and install eco-friendly stoves in these schools. As of now, the project has carried out installations in six schools.
Nakate in an interview was able to make linkage between he dangers of climate change and the early marriage of young girls, in the rural parts of Uganda. According to her, extreme weather conditions destroy the agriculture which constitutes the livelihood of many families, causing them to force girls to go into marriage at an earlier age!
At just 25 years old I am sure Nakate is only just beginning! As Ross Perrot the American Businessman/Politician once said, “An Activist is not one who says the river is dirty, but one actually cleans the river”. Vanessa Nakate, my profile of the who is rising up for the environment.